The Student
The 1st Korea Conference: Celebrating March 1 Independence Movement Day
by Shin Woo Kim, 21/03/20

On Saturday 29 February, Edinburgh Korean Students Society (EKSS) held their first-ever Korean Independence Movement Day Conference in David Hume Lecture Theatre A. The conference was held a day before March 1 Korean Independence Movement Day, to commemorate the nationwide campaign in Korea against Japanese colonial rule on 1 March 1919.

Funded by the British-Korean Society, Edinburgh University Student’s Association, the National Unification Advisory Council and the Student Experience Grant, the event was free to enter and open to everyone, with donation boxes collecting money for the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (the Korean Council).

The conference was composed of a series of talks led by academics from Edinburgh, other parts of the UK and Europe, as well as a French-Korean author, relating to either of the two sub-topics: ‘Korean Independence Movement’ and ‘The Relationship between North and South Korea.’ 

The first talk was given by Dr Gabor Sebo, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the University of Edinburgh who specialises in North Korean cinema. He presented an entertaining variety of film clips drawing parallels between the works of Shin Sang-Ok, a South Korean film director abducted into North Korea, and other North Korean or South Korean films. The following talk about North-South Korean reunification was cancelled due to the speaker’s illness. This freed up an extra hour for the break, allowing attendees to network with each other for two hours.

After the break, French-Korean author Seh-Lynn summarised her newly published book Deux Coréennes, which she co-wrote with North Korean Jihyun Park. Her talk gave an insight into the lives of North Korean defectors in the UK. Throughout the day, there was an opportunity to buy the book downstairs.

Dr Yoonjeong Lee from University of Leicester continued by outlining the events of the March 1 Independence Movement itself, focussing on the female Korean independence activists who contributed to the movement.

After a short coffee break, Dr Sojin Lim from University of Central Lancashire gave a talk on ‘Paradigm changes and Aid Modalities: a Case of South Korea’s Triangular Cooperation and the Implications for North Korea,’ with a specific focus on the mathematics of changing aid policies with North Korea.

Following Dr Lim was Jangkyu Lee, a postgraduate student from Paris Diderot University, who spoke about the diplomatic activities of the Korean delegation of the Korean government-in-exile in Paris, 1919. His talk was in Korean, which was then translated into English by an interpreter. 

The conference concluded with a speech by Dr. Marie-Orange Rivé-Lasan, President of Libertas, a French-Korean association for the study of independence movements, and a short film about Korean ‘comfort women’ called The Never Ending Story, which informed audiences about the reasons why the conference was fundraising for the Korean Council, which works towards resolving and preventing wartime sexual violence against not only Korean ‘comfort women’ but other victims of wartime sexual violence as well. 

With a turnout of 30 to 40 people throughout the day, the conference was attended by people from various backgrounds, including Korean and Japanese people. The conference will continue next year to adhere to Student Association’s Development Fund guidelines. 

Image: Suyeon Park via Edinburgh Korean Students Society